In 2012, a Belgian player lodged a complaint with the Belgian Gaming Commission (the "BGC") in which he alleged that he had lost €15,000 in one year by playing Boyaa Texas Poker on Facebook. As a result of this complaint, the BGC decided to examine the issue of social gaming.
The Belgian Gambling Act of 7 May 1999 (the "BGA") contains a wide definition of games of chance that are covered by the BGA. The definition contains three cumulative conditions: (i) the placement of a stake, (ii) the possibility of winning or losing, and (iii) the intervention of chance during the game. Under the regime of the BGA, operating games of chance in Belgium without a licence granted by the BGC is prohibited.
The broad definition of games of chance provided by the BGA raises questions regarding the status of the many social games available on Facebook and other social media. In an effort to reduce the current uncertainty, the BGC submitted a draft Royal Decree to the Belgian Government with the objective of regulating social games.
In a nutshell, the draft Royal Decree basically confirms that online social games fall under the scope of the BGA if they meet the three conditions stated above. However, it also provides that the operation of social games is not subject to the granting of a licence by the BGC if (i) the social game has not been identified as a licensed game of chance, and (ii) the player cannot spend more than €100 per month.
The ball is now in the Ministry of Justice's court, which may launch a round of public consultation. At this stage, the timing of the adoption of the draft Royal Decree (and the eventual content) remains unclear.
In the meantime, the BGC has added two social gaming firms (Spigo and Spelpunt, in addition to Victor Chandler's site www.betvictor.com) to its blacklist of illegal online gambling websites. According to the BGC, these two unlicensed firms have been put on the blacklist insofar as they charged Belgian players real money to play games like mahjong and blackjack in the hope of winning prizes with a monetary value.
To be continued …